Fair or otherwise, the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford is going the wrong way on Ron Jaworski's annual ranking of NFL quarterbacks. Stafford was at No. 14 heading into the 2012 season, but Jaworski has pegged him at No. 16 this summer.
In the SportsCenter/NFL Live segment, Jaworski referred to Stafford as a "supremely-talented thrower still searching for the consistency needed to become elite."
Here is most of Jaworski's analysis, once again courtesy Allie Stoneberg of ESPN Communications:
"No quarterback has thrown more passes the last two seasons than Stafford. He's a shotgun passer. Eighty-three percent of his throws in 2011 and 2012 have come out of the shotgun. That's the largest percentage by a wide margin.
"I've always loved Stafford’s willingness to pull the trigger. He's aggressive, with an attacking mentality.
"It reminds me of when I played with Dan Marino. Marino said if you see the back of a defender's jersey, you turn it loose. Stafford has that mindset. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you're throwing to Calvin Johnson -- a lot of trust there, a lot of confidence that he will make contested catches. I felt the same way when I threw to 6-foot-8 Harold Carmichael.
"What stood out studying Stafford was he was not as efficient under center as he was in the shotgun. He seemed to struggle to read coverage as effectively. Too many forced throws. Overall, he just threw too many passes with poor balance and bad footwork, with a tendency to fall away from the throws.
"There is absolutely no question that Stafford is a very special arm talent. There are not many that throw it like he does. He has a chance to be a top 10 quarterback. The Lions may disagree, but he needs more consistent mechanics to play at a higher level week in and week out."
There are two separate criticisms here. The first, efficiency under center, might be accurate but is not borne out in raw statistics.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Stafford has a better passer rating (108.9) and almost as good of a Total Quarterback Rating (62.1) on plays that started with him under center since 2011 as he has from the shotgun. He has thrown 19 touchdowns and five interceptions, with an overall completion percentage of 62.9, on 422 dropbacks from under center over that time. In the shotgun, Stafford has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 42 touchdowns and 27 interceptions on 1,281 dropbacks.
It's quite possible that a seasoned observer like Jaworski can see that Stafford is operating inefficiently on under-the-center plays, even if it isn't reflected in the final results. But it's important to have full context regardless.
On the mechanics-related criticism, I don't know what else to say. We noted Seth Wickersham's theory recently that Stafford's 2010 shoulder injury has forced him to drop down his arm angle at times. My sense is that everyone is working hard to explain why Stafford's performance slipped in 2012. Some answers make more sense than others.